Coming out of Antigua's VC Bird International Airport, a floodlit ground greets you. A semi-circular structure that goes around some part of the boundary bears the bronze plaques of former West Indian greats.
That’s the ‘Sticky Wicket’ restaurant, while the ground was once the piece of real estate that held out the promise of riches for the cash-starved West Indies cricket set-up, thanks to its billionaire owner.
It belonged to the US-based billionaire Allen Stanford, who had raised hopes of pouring millions that could rival the financial clout of India. The Stanford Twenty20 started in 2006 and had the island’s team buzzing in hope.
Then came the big deal in 2008: Stanford Super Series offering a winner-takes-all purse of around $20 million for a clash between England and a hand-picked Caribbean All-Star.
But all that vanished once US authorities began investigating Stanford for fraud and money laundering. He is waiting for the trial to start later this year.
He also courted a huge controversy when he was photographed with the wives and girlfriends of England players on his lap as their partners played the Super Series game.
“The Sticky Wicket is now run by a local consortium. Of course the big money backing is no longer there,” said a local cricket organiser. And cricket now has to compete with soccer at the ground. As one drives past, one can see old banners of the Stanford Twenty20 extravaganza, now used to fence out the venue during soccer training.
Sammy in crossfire
West Indies skipper Darren Sammy has been caught in a tussle between the cricket board and the players’ association that is backing Chris Gayle in his row with the cricket authorities. Sammy did not attend the West Indies Players’ Association’s awards function in Trinidad a few days ago and has come in for criticism in the Caribbean media.
However, he has, in a statement through the board, blamed the head of the players’ body, Dinanath Ramnarine, saying he had already informed him that he would not be attending.